by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
As Independence Day nears, it is time for Harness Racing to kick into full-gear. No sport toils through the winter as well as harness racing does, but like most of us, summertime is the time to be out, about and enjoying the warm weather.
In the winter, the top pacers and trotters are usually hibernating, but now that the weather has warmed, here they are. Last week, Lather Up took the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup at Mohawk Park. Last night, he won his elimination in the Max Hempt; stopping the clock in 1:49 over the 5/8 mile track.
Next Saturday, Pocono Downs will have a dizzying array of stakes races for all of us to swallow up. The Hempt for 3-year old pacers; the Franklin for free-for-all pacers; the Beal for 3-year old trotters and the Lynch for 3-year old filly pacers. Many of the horses that run here will be pointed to Hambletonian Day on Saturday, August 4 at the Meadowlands.
One interesting development will be the filly trotter Manchego. She’s undefeated and last night, she beat the boys in her Beal elimination. Will she run against the boys in the Hambletonian? Trainer Jimmy Takter says no, indicating that the Hambo Oaks is the likely landing spot, but let’s see how she does in the Beal final on June 30 before ruling anything out. The Oaks, at $500,000 is far from a consolation prize, but if she is good enough to beat the boys in the Beal, why not go for it again in the Hambletonian?
Lather Up will be the favorite in the Hempt. He is owned by George Teague, driven by son Montrell and trained by Clyde Francis, the same trio that delighted America with Wiggle It Jiggle It. As good as the colt has been, he is not eligible for the Meadowlands Pace which is disappointing, but if we know this trio, we will surely see plenty of Lather Up in the summer and the fall.
Yonkers Raceway doesn’t have any major stakes races coming up, but because they have high purses, their weekly open paces and trots (with $44,000 purses) continue to draw the big names. Last night, 2016 Triple Crown trotting winner, Marion Marauder, returned to the track and won the open from the eight-hole in 1:55.1. In the pacing counterpart, Always At My place held off Evenin of Pleasure to win in a very fast 1:51.1, a time not often seen at the Hilltop Oval. Yonkers can make the claim that they feature the best overnighters, but too often that second quarter holds down lightning fast times. In last night’s pace, that wasn’t the case with Western Dynasty carving out quarters of 27.1, 28.4, and 27.0 before giving way to the above mentioned win and place finishers.
Not to be overlooked is Northfield Park, which will host the $175,000 Cleveland Trotting Classic this Saturday. Last year, Crazy Wow rallied past Resolve and Obrigado to win in 1:52.3. That time set an all-age trotting record at the half-mile track, which if you watch online, is known as the “Home of the Flying Turns.” My hunch says that Marion Marauder takes a shot here, but we’ll see when they announce the draw later this week.
July 4 will feature fireworks from across the country. In harness racing, they have already begun.